Park Nam-su was born in 1918 in Pyongyang, Pyongnam Province. He graduated from Pyongyang Commercial Highschool and received his Bachelor of Arts in Law from Chuo University in Japan. After the Independence he was employed in Shiksan Bank in Jinampo, Pyongnam and later served as a manager. When the Korean War broke out, he moved down to the South and was deeply involved in literary groups and publication of literary magazines. He was reunited with his family in Florida in 1975 and spent the rest of his life there until he died at the age of 76, in 1994.

Park Nam-su began to write poems in the early 1930's and made his formal literary debut with "The Lantern" published in Munjang by Chong Chi-yong's recommendation. He is known as "the poet of birds". He published seven volumes of poetry and among them forty-eight poems are about birds. The volumes include The Lantern (1940), A Sketch of a Seagull (1958), The Trash of God (1964), The Secret Burial of a Bird (1970), The Crown of a Deer (1981), The Memory of a Forest in an Unknown Place (1991) and And then After (1992). He received the fifth Asia Literary Award in 1957 and ue Gongcho Literary Award in 1992.

His early work is marked by the controled emotion dealing with the tragic reality of Japanese colonialism using vivid images. It also shows the solitude and anxiety prevailing among Korean people then and is presented through images of wavering light and flame. His poetic career culminated between the 1950's and the 1980's when his fifth volume of poetry was published. In the poems of this period, he focuses on birds and the value of being. Unlike in the early work, he accepts absurd reality, observes the world through the dual perspective, and suffers from its imbalance and discrepancy. However, such consciousness has gradually yielded to the will to overcome reality, which is represented in the symbol of absolute innocence, "bird." His later poetry is concerned with the retrospect of his life and solitude as an immigrant in the United States. It reveals the nihilistic and aloof attitude toward life of the old poet who senses death near him.








A pigeon

sneakingly shoves and pokes

another pigeon.

Walking around and pecking.

He doesn't say

a word. Finally

she understands and quietly bends her body

and spreads her wings. He

becomes an intrepid God on the other's back. Not a single

word. In the beginning

was nothing but a gesture.






The Lantern


Under the night sky without a single star

all streets and houses hidden.


Following the footsteps on the grass, where is the lantern going

passing a place on the mountain ledge where a thatched look-out might be

turning around the place which might be the ruins of an old fortress


the swinging lantern is no longer seen.


The lantern that quietly, quietly swung.




A Morning Image


Darkness begets birds, stones,

and flowers.

In the morning,

darkness returns all things

yet yields itself to the earth.

Shaking their heavy shoulder

smoving their bodies

things are enjoying the time of labour.

The festival of the earth.

The jubilant resonance of the sun in the golden blaze.

In the morning

the world begins.




A Bird


At a ford of wind

laid out in the sky,

at a shadow of trees

in crisp whispering, birds sing.

Not knowing it's a song.


Not knowing it's love,

they bury

their beaks

in each other's wings

and share the warmth of their bodies.



Birds don't

sing to mean something

nor falsify love

with coquetry.



A hunter aims at the innocence

with a piece of lead, yet


what he gets is

nothing but the broken body of a bird wet with blood.





The Sound of a Bell



I leave. From the bronze surface

becoming the birds of vibration flying all at once.

becoming a vast cry

becoming a sound.


Is the submission over.

In the pitch-black cel

lwhose bronze wall

incarcerates 'history'.


I am carried on the wind

to be greenness in a field.

I become laughter in a flower

and a musical instrument in heaven.


When the somber clouds are massed

I become the thunder

gushing from the tap of the sky

and the sound of powdery mists, mists, mists.